A letter from Miles to a correspondent who lived in New York
Ralph L Freeman
Jan 18 1986
Dear Mr Freeman,
Who was it said it is better to answer a letter very late than very very late?
I don’t know, but here I am anyway to thank you for your letter of Sep 19 in which (you’ve probably forgotten) you said how nice it was to find someone who was prepared to be nice about America.
Well, you’ve got to remember that when a nation like America is the biggest and richest around, it gets you everything except popularity. Put it down a notch or two on the scale; do all Americans love Texas? Do any Americans love Texas? (I know that Texas is not the super-rich symbol it used to be, but you know what I mean.) People sneer at America because that’s all they can do. Somebody once told me a South American joke which went like this:
First Chilean: What would you do if you came home and found your wife in bed with another man?
Second Chilean: Do? I’d be so angry… I’d be so angry I’d go out and break every window in the American embassy!
America, poor old America, is in a no-win situation. Just like Britain used to be in 1900, when nobody liked us either.
But I can’t help remembering something that I was told in Baton Rouge three years ago by the local tourist official. “Why,” she said, “why is it always the bad aspects of America that are exported and never the good ones?”
What she meant is that everyone knows about Macdonalds and nobody knows about the great individual restaurants of America. Your multiples get exported and your one-offs don’t. Americans are born free and everywhere form chains.
My one experience of ships was sailing to the West Indies in a Geest banana boat and coming back from New York in a North German Lloyd line boat, the Bremen, in 1960. It was great.